Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Being Authentically You

The Internet has evolved into a strange place where everything looks the same. This is similar to going into a school full of students with indistinguishable hair styles, lingo, clothing and music choices. Everyone seems happy and chipper as you cruise the hallways, until you hear about all the girls who cry in the bathrooms because fitting in is so much work. As a friend of mine says, "Adults are just kids in bigger bodies." What is true is school is still true in adulthood. We all want to be ourselves but hesitate out of fear of being judged by our peers. Now this is spilling over onto the Internet.

Look at the numerous websites telling you how to "live the life of your dreams" from the comforts of your kitchen table and your laptop. After awhile they all start to look alike. Videos of the hosts behaving overly enthusiastic and outrageous end with an offer to teach you the secrets of their success by attending an event for the low low price of...

Don't get me wrong. There are people out there who bring value to the Internet discourse, despite their whacky videos. Their stories involve setbacks, failures and triumphs. They share both their proudest and worst moments, instead of hiding behind an "I am such a genius" persona. However, I will not name any of them or their web sites in this post because this is about you, not them.

Enter at Your Own Risk 

If you want to be like everyone else with the "top 10 list" for this or the "top 5 ways" to do that, go right ahead. You will even find similar posts on this web site. But if all you have to offer is what the last guy said, why should anyone bother listening? Many take this safe route because they believe it works, but ask most of these folks about their results and you will not be impressed. This is what Seth Godin refers to as the race to the bottom.

Aint Nothin' Like the Real Thing 

You are far better off being authentically you because in a world of sameness, uniqueness is a welcomed novelty. Some consider this risky, but is anything riskier than trying to be the "next" somebody else? While many choose the expediency of being the cheap knock off, the original moves on. Think of copy cat movies with similar titles as the original blockbusters. When have these ever succeeded?

Scary? Yes. Risky? No. 

Authenticity requires courage because one must expose him or herself in a way that makes them feel vulnerable.

If I share my mistakes, people will laugh at me.

If I say what I am afraid of, people will judge me.

If I fill in the blank, people will fill in the blank.

All of this is true but something else also happens. Those who feel the same way but are afraid to speak up will quietly support you and come to your defense. Others will be even more vocal in their defense, while a few will become loyal comrades in the war against mediocrity.

Tell Us Your Story? 

So, think of the thing you are most afraid of, and share that with your audience. The most popular posts on this site (like this one) detail some of my greatest fears, failures and ambitions. Vulnerabilities come front and center for all to see and scrutinize. My "lists" on the other hand, do okay but not nearly as well as the more heartfelt musings. Why? Because people are used to seeing lists, which are nothing more than reshuffled stale content.

So, do not be fooled by the parlor tricks and two way mirrors of the Internet. Pour your authentic self into whatever you offer, whether selling shoes, t-shirts or books--or building a community around your content. There is a why behind what you do--your story. Tell us about that, not the top 10 ways to...

You may be thinking, how do I do that? In a follow up post next week, I will highlight a few products and businesses with compelling stories, including my personal favorite. The product eventually grew on me, but the story is what made me stick around long to become loyal.

Godspeed and I look forward to seeing you in The Players Lounge.

See Also...

A 20 Year Journey Towards Clarity
An Open Letter to a Beginning Entrepreneur

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